Racists Strut Their Stuff

becca

 

I am astonished – shocked – by the shameless way in which racists are flaunting their bigotry in America today. Take this comment from Maine’s Governor Paul LePage:

These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty – these types of guys – they come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we have to deal with down the road.

And this robocall to Iowa voters from a group supporting Donald Trump:

We don’t need Muslims. We need smart, well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture.

I never thought I would live to hear this kind of thing – not in public, anyway.

Overt racism is more evident in America than I have ever known it, and I’ve been in this country for nearly 37 years.

What’s going on?

I imagine one reason is a backlash against the election of America’s first black President. Some pundits are saying the nation wasn’t ready for that.

But there are other reasons. And some of them are economic.

With America’s factory jobs gone abroad, this country is left with mostly low-paying service sector jobs, the kind that “smart, well educated, white people” once disdained. Now, everybody – black, white, Hispanic or whatever – must compete for those jobs.

I’m beginning to see stories about “white poverty” in the media.

According to an old Jamaican saying, “If you don’t mash ants, you never see their guts.” In other words, distress exposes a person’s hidden feelings.

And, with presidential candidate Donald Trump daring to give voice to this undercurrent of racist resentment, others of his stripe are feeling emboldened.

But, while the racists might now feel free to expose their “guts,” it’s encouraging to note the overwhelmingly negative response they are evoking.

For example, hundreds of outraged Americans condemned LePage. According to an ABC report, “social media’s response was swift – and seething.”

He was obliged to issue a half-hearted apology.

Even more encouragingly, the white mother of a biracial child took to Facebook to lambaste the governor.

Her name is Becca Edwards and her husband is black (photo above).

LePage’s words “should not be tolerated,” she said. Here’s an excerpt from her Facebook posting:

 Last week the governor in Maine, my state, suggested to the world that if one were to see me (the white girl) and my daughter (the biracial girl) walking down the street, that she is a product of my involvement with a drug dealer from out of state. And even worse, that she wasn’t wanted.

My daughter’s father (the black guy) is….wait for it…my husband! Even more crazy, he’s not a drug dealer! What?!? He’s a well-educated man with an excellent job in education, in fact. And our daughter, was so wanted.

Edwards concluded with the hashtag “impeachlepage” and encouraged others to share her post to show what a biracial family in Maine “really looks like.”

As long as Americans like Becca Edwards keep coming forward to counter the bigots, America will remain the proud and free country that people like me envisaged when we became citizens. And the racists will eventually crawl back under their rocks.

Click for more on Becca Edwards.

Click for the Trump robocalls.

Click for more on racism in the USA.

 

At Last, Someone Cares

dicaprio

 

Leonardo DiCaprio made some people uneasy last night when he spoke up for the world’s indigenous people in his acceptance speech for the Best Actor award at the Golden Globes event. He won the award for his portrayal of a frontiersman in The Revenant (above).

Leonardo-But he also won plaudits – especially on social media.

And I think the praise was well deserved. It’s time – past time – that someone spoke up for the abused indigenous races, driven off their lands by greed and indifference and often mired in poverty, disease and crime.

Here’s what DiCaprio said:

I want to share this award with all the First Nations people represented in this film, and all the indigenous communities around the world. It is time that we recognize your history, and that we protect your indigenous lands from corporate interest and people that are out there to exploit them.

It is time that we heard your voice, and protect this planet for future generations,

Obviously it was an awkward moment. Politicial activism is not welcome at events like the Golden Globes. Organizers tried to nudge DiCaprio off the stage by playing loud exit music.

But the audience cheered and Twitter erupted with praise for the actor, who is known for his environmental activism.

I am bemused by the fame and fortune that celebrities like DiCaprio accumulate . They are talented, of course, but in a common-sense world their reward would certainly not so totally eclipse that of humanitarians, scientists, inventors and others who make important contributions to society.

So I am encouraged when a famous actor takes a stand for a good cause. To me, it compensates for their good fortune.

And when DiCaprio stands up for the Native Americans and other indigenous people, he is taking on a cause that the politicians have shamefully ignored. Perhaps his public gesture will start a much needed conversation. Especially if his film – and his performance in it – win the recognition they deserve in the Academy Awards.

Click for the response on social media.

Click for more on the awards.

Click for more on indigenous people.

 

“Mormon Extremists”

moroniIIIf the armed protesters occupying a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon were Muslims, you would be reading about another attack by “Islamic extremists.” Instead these protesters are Mormons, so their religion doesn’t seem to  matter to America’s mainstream media.

The Christian Science Monitor is even trying to provide them with legitimate credentials. According to an article in that publication yesterday, they aren’t just a bunch of lawless hooligans welching on their grazing fees; they’re actually crusaders against encroaching poverty in the American West.

How’s that for special pleading?

You might argue that the Oregon occupation is inspired by economics, not by religion. But you would then have to explain the role of “Captain Moroni.”

That’s how the militiaman guarding the entrance to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge responds when asked for his name.

The name “Moroni” might ring a bell.  In the Mormon faith, Moroni (statue pictured above) is the angel who enlightened Joseph Smith, the religion’s founder. During his time as a mortal, the angel was Captain Moroni, a great warrior.

I don’t recall any references at the time to the religious affiliation of the Cliven Bundy militiamen who ran off federal agents in Nevada. But, here’s what I found today on the Oregon Public Broadcasting web site:

During an April 2014 standoff with federal officials, supporters and members of the Bundy militia cited Book of Mormon passages centering on Captain Moroni. There were also several flags quoting Captain Moroni’s own writing on his “title of liberty.” Often next to American flags, these banners read “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.”

That might not sound like religious extremism to you, but, when the words are backed up by loaded guns, it certainly does to me.

And you have to wonder why the group’s leader, Ammon Bundy (who is named after another Mormon messenger), cites divine authority when he defies the federal government.

In one of his videos, for example, he says he was anointed by God to protect ranchers who are suffering from tyranny. And he justifies occupation of the wildlife refuge under Captain Moroni’s “title of liberty.”

True, I’ve never heard of Mormons beheading nonbelievers, as some Muslim sects are doing. So obviously, the Mormon protesters aren’t as dangerous as the Islamic jihadists.

But I have to confess, I think the Mormon religion is bizarre. Their missionaries came to Jamaica when I was a child and tried to win converts but I don’t think they did very well. I got the impression that they believed – at that time anyway – that dark skinned people were somehow inferior.

Of course,  they might feel my religion is bizarre. So they’re entitled to their beliefs. You can worship however you want in the USA.

But the Constitutional right to religious freedom doesn’t mean you can seize federal property and threaten to shoot anyone who contests your occupation. That’s plainly “extremist.”

Click for the OPB web site.

Christian Science Monitor article

Click for Mormon beliefs.

 

Time for Jeb to Quit

jeb

 

Get lost, Jeb. You’re cluttering up the Republican primary field and making an ass of yourself. I thought you were better than that.

What are you polling now, 3 percent? I know you’re down in single digits – way down. And it’s no wonder. You keep giving voters reasons to pick someone else.

There was that shocking proposal to invade Iraq again – just as your brother did. I have news for you, Jeb. Americans don’t want any more troops killed and maimed fighting someone else’s war. Been there, done that. And we regret the two trillion dollars it cost, not to mention the dead kids and shattered families.

Now you’re proposing the elimination of food stamps and housing assistance.

You say you want the federal government to give the states money to work out their own plans. What are you, nuts?

Without the federal government, do you have any idea what would be going on in some of those states? Black Americans would still be counting jars of beans to vote, for one thing.

Donald Trump got it wrong when he described you as just “low energy.” You’re also low intellect, Jeb. Low common sense.

You’re so dumb – sorry, I can’t think of a more polite word – that you don’t realize how America feels about the last Bush presidency. According to a story in the Washington Post today:

Now, stuck near the back of the GOP pack and fighting for survival, the former Florida governor is calling in the cavalry — relatives and hundreds of others with long ties to the Bush clan who are gearing up to flood Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada in a push to get back into contention.

So you plan to remind us how awful your brother was, how he invaded Iraq on a lie, wrecked the economy and left the country in shambles. Does that sound like a good idea to you?

I can’t imagine who would respond favorably to this strategy.You’ll be throwing good money after bad, jeb, and your super PAC has already spent tens of millions of dollars on your campaign with no discernible results.

Money can’t buy you love, Jeb. And neither can that gang of Bush buddies you’re set to deploy.

Click for Bush’s welfare plan.

Click for the Washington Post story.

 

You Didn’t Win a Mercedes

scam

 

If you pick up the phone and hear a Jamaican voice telling you that you’ve won a million dollars and a Mercedes (as I did), just hang up. It’s a scam.

The so-called lottery scam has become such a big industry in Jamaica that violence among rival gangs has spiked the island’s murder rate. According to an AP story this morning:

The Jamaica Constabulary Force said the country had at least 1,192 slayings in 2015, a roughly 20 percent increase from the previous year… By comparison, Chicago, which has roughly the same population as Jamaica at 2.7 million, had 468 killings in 2015.

Police blamed Jamaica’s high murder rate  – among the top five or six in the world – on “violent rivalries among Jamaica’s lottery scam rings.”

I find it hard to believe anyone gets taken in by the lottery scam phone calls. Trust me, if you win a million dollars and a Mercedes, you will get a letter, probably by certified mail, not a casual phone call by someone with a Jamaican voice. (And by the way, if you didn’t buy a ticket, you couldn’t have won the lottery.)

When I got my call, I just laughed.

“No man,” I said. “I didn’t win a million dollars and a Mercedes. You and I both know that. By the way are you Jamaican?”

We got to talking and it turned out there might be some kind of distant family connection. We parted amicably.

But apparently, a lot of other people believe the scammers, and shell out “fees” for “processing” and “taxes.” According to a CBS report:

Complaints about the scam jumped from 1,867 in 2007 to almost 29,220 in 2012 (but federal officials say far more are never even reported).

A CNN story a few months ago put the number of victims at “nearly 300,000.”

The victims are mostly seniors living in America. I guess, as we age, our brains aren’t what they used to be. The CBS report said one victim they talked to had paid the scammers more than $30,000. The CNN story told of an elderly man who killed himself after the scammers drained his bank account.

Despite numerous “exposés,” the scam still thrives. In fact, it’s bigger than ever. So big that rival scammers are killing one another.

Click for the AP story.

Click for the CBS report.

Click for CNN on the scam.

 

What’s at Stake

issues

 

You might find it difficult to sort out just what’s at stake in this year’s US general election. The media are distracted by side issues – Donald Trump’s hair versus Bernie Sanders’ hair for instance. And the public discourse has been – to say the least – confusing.

So let’s see if we can cut through the sound and fury, and determine what the real choices are.

Most obvious is Obamacare. The Republicans have made it abundantly clear that if they win the White House (and Congress), the Affordable Care Act will be repealed.

As I write this, the House is passing a bill that is sure to get to the President’s desk. He will veto it of course, and there aren’t enough votes in Congress to override the veto.

But, if the Democrats lose the White House and Congress in November, the act will be repealed, leaving millions of Americans without health insurance.

If either Bernie or Hillary becomes President, health insurance for all will be assured. Hillary has vowed to refine and improve the existing act. Bernie wants to replace it by expanding Medicare to cover everybody, regardless of age.

If the Democrats win the White House and Congress, their plans will be realized. Even if  the Republicans win Congress, at least a Democratic president would be able to veto attempts at repeal, as Obama is doing.

Another sure bet is that the President’s executive orders on gun control will be revoked. The plague of gun violence will be left unchecked and thousands more will die. If the Democrats are in power, you can expect common-sense gun control laws and a respite from the bloodshed.

On immigration, you can be sure there will be no clemency for “illegal aliens” under a Republican regime. Republicans want all undocumented immigrants kicked out – plain and simple. As for any compromise that would provide a path to citizenship, you can forget about it.

The Republican candidates haven’t explicitly promised to outlaw abortion, but it’s easy to discern their intention if you examine the laws passed by Republican controlled state legislatures across America.

I predict that if conservatives win this election, a law reversing Roe v. Wade will go to the Supreme Court. And those five Roman Catholic justices will be licking their lips in anticipation. Even some forms of birth control would become illegal.

Another vital issue is the economy. With Republicans at the helm, America will slip farther into a Third World pattern, with a super-rich elite and a deprived underclass. Corporations and other powerful special interests will continue to dictate America’s financial policies and bask in ever more generous tax breaks.

With Democrats in control, the super rich will be expected to pay their fair share, tax loopholes will be closed and the poor and middle class will get relief.

If Bernie wins the White House and gets a favorable Congress, there will be radical restructuring of the financial system. The big banks would be broken up, for example.

With Hillary, the existing system will be tweaked  to limit the predatory behavior that has become the hallmark of Wall Street.

You might think that the Republicans’ “free-market” policies would stimulate the economy, providing more jobs and opportunities for success. But these policies have done nothing of the kind so far. Instead, they have channeled the nation’s wealth to the top one percent, leaving most Americans struggling to make ends meet.

History has shown that prudent government intervention can create a more prosperous middle class and avoid the boom-and-bust perils of a corporate fiefdom.

There are other considerations, of course. Important considerations, such as the need for criminal justice reform, curbing suppression of voting rights, providing an escape route from the ghetto, making room for ethnic and sexual diversity, encouraging tolerance and good will instead of divisiveness and fear…

I personally believe these concerns would be addressed more appropriately by Democrats than by Republicans. You might disagree.

The choice is yours. If any of the issues I mentioned matter to you, I hope you will take the trouble to vote in November.

Click for more on the issues.

Click for the Obamacare repeal bill.

Click for the justices’ religion.

 

The Obama Legacy

gun-control

 

I suppose it’s flattering that President Obama is being blamed for failing to prevent the Saudis from beheading that Iranian cleric. The accusation seems to presuppose some kind of supernatural power.

President Obama tries, he really tries, to right the wrongs of the world. But even the president of the United States can only do so much.

I imagine history will conclude that President Obama did what good he could under the circumstances.

He took office while the American economy was in free fall and the world’s financial system was in grave danger. It took a Herculean effort to turn things around, and the side effects of that effort were not all beneficial.

The economy that emerged – not just in America but throughout the world – is still skewed, channeling wealth away from the majority into the hands of an elite few. It will be up to future American and world leaders to sort that out – if they have the will.

President Obama’s achievements are legion, and I can’t list them all in a blog. But I imagine he will be remembered most for providing affordable health care to nearly all Americans, even those with “pre-existing conditions.”

That was no small task. The opposition to health care reform was powerful and resolute. Opponents are still trying to destroy the new system. And I imagine they will keep trying as long as it exists.

Obama’s immigration policies will be remembered as humane (despite the deportation sweeps currently under way). His efforts to accommodate the children of undocumented immigrants, for example, while not entirely successful, were a step in the right direction.

This humane approach prevailed in the president’s global policies, too. But a world in chaos and conflict presents challenges nobody could resolve without bloodshed. Barack Obama’s successors will find that while it’s easy to criticize – especially in hindsight – it’s not so easy to do better.

What stands out to me is President Obama’s perseverance. He doesn’t give up in the face of intransigent opposition. And as America’s first black president, he faced added hostility to his reform efforts. There were many white Americans who seemed to be wondering who this black man thought he was, anyway.

An example of this president’s perseverance is his crusade against gun violence. Today, he issued a series of executive orders strengthening background checks and closing loopholes in regulations covering such things as gun show sales. How much good this will do remains to be seen. But with Congress in the pockets of the gun lobby, it’s all he can do as president.

He would have done more if the system had allowed him to.

And that perhaps will be the Obama legacy. Under the American system of government, the president’s power is limited. If the people choose a perverse Congress, and if that Congress is supported by a biased Supreme Court, there’s only so much any president can do.

Click for beheading story.

Click for the executive orders.

 

Money Can’t Buy Victory

donors

 

Money is powerful but – as the old saying reminds us – it can’t buy happiness. And apparently it doesn’t necessarily buy elections either.

Of course, you can’t win an election – even a local election – without the cash to put up signs and keep your campaign office open. But the hysteria provoked by the Supreme Court’s ruling notwithstanding, America’s political players are finding out that deep pockets don’t guarantee victory.

Ask Sheldon Adelson. He poured 50 million dollars (or was it a hundred million?) into the 2012 election and is pouring who knows how many millions more into this campaign. So far, the horses he backed have won nothing.

Ask the Koch brothers. Their flunky Scott Walker lasted about five seconds in the current Republican primary.

Ask Carly Fiorina. She dumped millions from her golden parachute challenging Barbara Boxer for a California seat in the US Senate. Her campaign was a flop.

Ask Jeb Bush. His supporters have spent $50 million or more on his campaign, and where is he in the polls? In single digits, that’s where.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump, the billionaire braggart, has hardly dipped into his fortune to fuel his run for president. His advertising spending has been zero, yet he is polling way ahead of the primary pack.

Yes, Trump gets a lot of free publicity, but that’s because he knows how to manipulate the media. And nobody is arguing that free TV doesn’t produce results.

It’s the paid TV that’s in question.

TV ads are expected to cost around $4.4 billion in this election – up from $3.8 billion in 2012. But political strategists are beginning to wonder about their impact.

They certainly didn’t work for Jeb. His campaign recently  pulled his TV ads from the Iowa airwaves. I suppose they’ll channel their money into such old-fashioned techniques as phone calls and knocking on doors.

But, obviously, the message still matters more than the medium.

And that’s what Bernie Sanders seems to have. The blizzard of dollars flooding his office are not just vital fuel for his campaign, they’re evidence of something more important – potential votes.

Those individual supporters showering him with their contributions have an investment in the race. They’re not likely to sit this one out.

Click for campaign spending.

 

No Drone for Bundy?

bundy

 

If Ammon Bundy (above) were an Arab living in Yemen, I bet there would be a drone headed his way. In my view, he is a terrorist leader, and the US government has been targeting terrorist leaders all over the Mideast.

If Ammon Bundy were an African American, he would probably have been gunned down by police long ago. Even a 12-year-old black boy with a toy pistol got shot to death when he appeared “threatening.”

But Ammon Bundy is a white man living in America and seems to have free rein to rampage around the country waging war against federal authorities. According to an AP report today:

Ammon Bundy, the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was involved in a standoff with the government over grazing rights, told The Oregonian that he and two of his brothers were among a group of dozens of people occupying the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Ammon Bundy posted a video on his Facebook page asking for militia members to come help him. He said “this is not a time to stand down. It’s a time to stand up and come to Harney County,” where Burns is located. Below the video is this statement: “(asterisk)(asterisk)ALL PATRIOTS ITS TIME TO STAND UP NOT STAND DOWN!!! WE NEED YOUR HELP!!! COME PREPARED.”

AP didn’t think to mention it, but according to CNN, the protesters occupying the federal building are armed. And other reports say they’re dressed in”military-style uniforms.”

I wonder what would happen to armed African-American farmers who occupied a federal building to protest discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture? Black farmers have complained that the department’s racist policies caused them to lose their land. They protested in front of the White House and even asked the UN to intervene.

You probably don’t know about the black farmers’ protests. They have been peaceful and law abiding. The protesters were unarmed and non-violent. No news there.

But when a white rancher in Nevada disputes the federal government’s right to grazing land and when his gun-toting supporters run off federal agents, he is hailed as a hero on Fox News. (That’s what Ammon Bundy’s father, Cliven Bundy, did – remember?)

Since then, Ammon Bundy has been traveling the country looking for causes to defend. His latest crusade is on behalf of Dwight and Steven Hammond, father and son ranchers in Oregon, who were convicted of arson.

Prosecutors said the Hammonds set a fire, which burned about 130 acres of federal land, to cover up their poaching. They were sentenced to five years in prison.

Click for the AP story.

Click for CNN’s report.

Click for more on the dispute.

Click for the toy gun fatality.

Click for the black farmers’ dispute.

 

Dangerous Media Moguls

media

 

Las Vegas gambling czar Sheldon Adelson makes no secret of the fact that he doesn’t like journalism so why did he buy his state’s largest newspaper?

adelsonThe billionaire Zionist (photo at right), who was recently exposed as the secret buyer of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, already owns Jerusalem’s Israel Hayom (Israel Today). He recently bought control of Israel’s main religious daily, Makor Rishon,  and NRG, an Israeli news web site.

Haim Saban, an Egyptian-born Jewish billionaire who immigrated to America, made his fortune by turning the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers into a global franchise, which he merged with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. He is the executive chairman of Univision.saban

Adelson, who contributes millions to Republican campaigns, and Saban (photo at right), who is a major donor to the Democrats, are talking about joining forces to buy the New York Times.

Their objective is obvious. Both are ardent Zionists and are dedicated to silencing criticism of Israel.

And to protecting Israel at all costs.

Adelson once suggested dropping a nuclear bomb in the desert to show the Iranians what could happen if they didn’t tow the line. And Saban is quoted as saying that if the Iranians balked at demands to totally eliminate their nuclear potential he would “bomb the living daylights out of the sons of bitches.”

The activities (and growing influence) of these two billionaires illustrate a dangerous trend in media – not just in America but globally.

Powerful interests are buying up control of the world’s news.

It’s most obvious in America where Mort Zuckerman, a real estate developer, owns the New York’s Daily News, Red Sox owner John Henry has bought the Boston Globe, and Rupert Murdoch, the owner of 21st Century Fox and News Corp., has acquired the Wall Street Journal.

(Amazon founder Jeff Bezos recently bought the Washington Post and I wonder if that has anything to do with the firing of longtime left-leaning columnist Harold Meyerson).

Right-wing crazies monopolize talk radio. And huge corporations have gobbled up mainstream TV.

(It’s no wonder I have to scroll through the cable TV stratosphere to find Democracy Now with Amy Goodman. And I can’t find Keith Olbermann anywhere.)

This trend is evident not just in the US but globally.

The world’s broadcast media are controlled by a few corporate giants – Viacom, CBS, Comcast, Vivendi, Televisa, Walt Disney, Hearst, Organizações Globo and Lagardère Group.

Meanwhile, as television’s dominance declines, “social media” outlets (Twitter, for example) are flooded by paid propaganda, churned out by an army of flacks. And a dizzying array of web sites have been created to dump special-interest disinformation on the public.

As you might imagine, this relentless bombardment is inevitably molding public opinion to strengthen the global influence of powerful special interests.

Click for more on Adelson.

Click for Saban.

Click for what’s ahead in media.